Queen Máxima of the Netherlands: how an Argentinian became a Dutch royal

Yas queen! 👑

Queen Máxima is both the first non-European and the first “commoner” to join the Dutch Royal Family.

But who is Queen Maxima, and how did she become a beloved Dutch royal? Here’s a tale of adventure, travel, acceptance, and a hint of scandal.

Queen Máxima: the first Argentinian on the Dutch throne

Queen Máxima was born in 1971 in Buenos Aires, Argentina as Máxima Zorreguieta Cerruti. While she would not become well known until her engagement to King Willem-Alexander and is technically a “commoner”, Máxima has quite an interesting heritage. 

Photo-of-Queen-Máxima-of-the-Netherlands-as-a-child
A photo of the future Queen of the Netherlands taken in 1977. Image: koninklijkhuis.nl/Wikimedia Commons/CC1.0.

Her father, Jorge Zorreguieta, was part of the Zorreguieta family. A powerful family in Buenos Aires, the Zorreguietas were descended from landed gentry and consisted of many politicians and statesmen throughout the generations — think Downton Abbey but set in Argentina.

Máxima completed her studies in Argentina, and in 1995, she graduated from the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina with a degree in economics. From there, she jetted off to New York, where she became a successful working woman — no prince needed. 

image-of-maxima-zorreguieta-in-1994
Máxima in the 1990s. Image: RVD/Het Koninklijk Huis

The future Dutch queen worked as an investment banker for multiple banks and became vice president of her division when, one day, she stumbled across King Willem-Alexander. 

How King Willem-Alexander met Queen Máxima

The king and queen of the Netherlands met under surprisingly normal circumstances — at a fair. The fair in question was the 1999 Seville Fair in Spain — picture brightly coloured tents, an amusement park, classic fair games and, of course, drinks!

This is the setting in which Máxima met the future king of the Netherlands, although he did not tell her at that moment.

When first introducing himself, Willem-Alexander, who at this point was still only the Prince of Orange, introduced himself merely as Alexander. 

READ MORE | 9 things you didn’t know about King Willem Alexander

When Alexander later told Máxima he was actually the next in line to the Dutch throne, she initially thought he was joking. Following their meeting in Seville, the couple arranged to see each other again two weeks later back in New York. 

The pair dated for two years and in 2001, they announced their engagement over a televised broadcast. During the broadcast, Máxima addressed the nation in Dutch.

While she only spoke the language to a conversational level at this point, her willingness to learn it charmed many viewers.

See the speech here:

Family ties and controversy

However, the introduction of Máxima to the royal family was not all smooth sailing. Máxima’s family became a point of controversy, specifically her father’s ties to the Argentinian dictator Jorge Rafael Videla.

Like his ancestors, Jorge Zorreguieta enjoyed a position of power in Argentina. He was Secretary of Agriculture under dictator Jorge Rafael Videla during the beginning of what became known as the “Dirty War” (1974-83).

READ MORE | The Dutch King, Queen, and Prime Minister respond to the death of Queen Elizabeth

During this war, Rafael Videla’s civil-military dictatorship was responsible for the “disappearance” and murder of between 13,000 and 30,000 people in Argentina. 

Following the restoration of democracy in Argentina, Rafael Videla was prosecuted for crimes against humanity and large-scale human rights abuses.

As you can imagine, Máxima’s father became a controversial figure in her life. The question of his own involvement in such a violent dictatorship had to be answered. 

Investigation

Not only did the people of the Netherlands find this aspect of Máxima’s life to be concerning — the government did too.

As a result, the States-General asked Professor Michiel Baud, a professor in Latin American studies, to investigate whether Máxima’s father could have been involved in any of the atrocities carried out under the dictatorship.

Following his investigation, Baud determined that Máxima’s father was not directly involved in any of the atrocities.

Photo-of-Queen-Maxima-of-the-Netherlands-sitting-on-throne-next-to-Dutch-King-Willem-Alexander
The Queen of the Netherlands is known for her outfit choices. Image: ANP/Sander Koning/Wikimedia Commons/CC1.0.

However, while Zorreguieta claims he knew nothing of the horrific offences carried out during his time in the cabinet, Baud believes it is unlikely that a minister wouldn’t have known. 

Maxima later spoke on the issue and condemned the dictatorship that her father had worked under, saying, “I have long rejected the Videla dictatorship, the disappearances, the torture, the murders and all the terrible facts of that time. That has certainly left major scars on our society.” 

READ MORE |Conscious royal: Dutch Princess Amalia says no to allowance

She defended her father, saying she believed his appointment under the dictatorship was an issue of timing and nothing more.

“Regarding my father’s participation in that government at the time, I would like to say in all honesty that I regret that he did his best for agriculture under the wrong regime. He had the best of intentions, and I believe in him.” 

No invitation to the royal wedding

One of the main questions that followed the announcement of the royal wedding was whether or not Máxima’s father would be present.

Some people in the Netherlands called for his arrest should he enter the country, while others questioned whether Máxima was even a suitable addition to the royal family. 

However, Queen Beatrix showed her approval of Máxima. Her decision to pose with Willem-Alexander and his fiance on her 63rd birthday acted as an informal stamp of approval for the match. 

The matter was finally put to rest when Máxima’s parents decided not to attend the royal wedding in 2002. Her father’s presence would only bring controversy, and her mother decided she would only attend with her husband. 

In spite of the initial hiccup, Máxima and King Willem-Alexander were successfully married and now have three daughters: The Princess of Orange, Amalia, Princess Alexia, and Princess Ariane. 

The Dutch identity according to Queen Máxima

Surprisingly enough, Máxima would come under fire once again in 2007. When speaking about the subject during a speech for the Scientific Council for Government Policy in 2007, she claimed that there is no singular way to define the Dutch identity: 

“The Dutch identity? No, I have not found it. The Netherlands is large windows without curtains so everyone can look in, but also adhere to privacy and cosiness. The Netherlands is one biscuit at tea, but also great hospitality and warmth. The Netherlands is sobriety, control and pragmatism, but also the experience of intense emotions together. The Netherlands is far too diverse to summarize in one cliché.”

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of her statement was her claim that “The Dutchman does not exist. As a consolation, I can tell you that ‘the’ Argentinian also does not exist.” 

Whilst I’m sure the Dutch would have likely been far more aggravated by one sweeping stereotype — this definition did not sit well with them either. Many Dutch people were outraged at Máxima’s statement, interpreting it as a criticism of the Netherlands.

Is there a concrete Dutch identity?

But Máxima was baffled by the Dutch reaction, claiming that she only wanted to praise the country’s multiculturality

To make matters more confusing, when asked whether or not they felt there was a Dutch identity, only 41% of people answered yes, a survey carried out by The Low Countries found. 

READ MORE | Dutch Queen Máxima cheers for Oranje in Netherlands-Argentina showdown despite Argentinian roots

A further 42% of those surveyed found that it exists in some respect — but what exactly does that mean? Who knows! Of those surveyed, 6% said they absolutely reject the idea of any concrete Dutch identity.

So, was Máxima right in saying there’s no concrete Dutch identity? Some would argue yes.

A queen for integration and inclusion

Whilst Máxima has certainly had some hiccups, she seems to have integrated nicely into Dutch society — and she wants this for all who come to the Netherlands. She has been involved in multiple initiatives that aim to help integrate foreigners, particularly female immigrants.

She took part in a special parliamentary commission that sought ways to improve the integration of female immigrants into the Dutch workforce, and from 2003 to 2005, she was a member of the Committee for Ethnic Minority Women’s Participation. 

READ MORE | Queen Máxima jumps out of plane over Breda (and yes, there’s a video)

Currently, Máxima is a part of the Chair on the Management of Diversity and Integration at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and a patron of the Orange Fund — a fund that promotes social welfare and cohesion. 

Just in case her involvement in these issues doesn’t convince you, Máxima is also the first member of any royal family to attend an LGBTQ+ rights conference, having attended one in 2008.

Moral of the story, she’s no absent queen. 

The people’s queen

Indeed, Máxima is actually a largely popular member of the royal family. In fact, for a number of years, she has been even more popular than the King himself! 

According to a survey carried out by Ipsos on King’s Day in April of 2022, when asked to rate their confidence in the royal family members, Máxima received an appreciation rating of 7.6.

Before 2020, her popularity had been steady and high ever since her addition to the family. However, it has dropped over the last few years.

READ MORE | The Dutch and their monarchy; a two-sided coin

Confidence in King Willem-Alexander has seen a sharper decrease, however, dropping to 47% in 2022. (It’s fair to say these ratings probably weren’t helped by that controversial holiday to Greece during the pandemic.) Let’s see how people are feeling this year!

Queen Máxima’s journey to the throne has not been without the occasional bump in the road, but in spite of this, she has proven herself to the majority of Dutch people — be it through her charity work, her interesting roots, or even simply the fact that she was not born into royalty herself.

What’s your opinion of Queen Máxima? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below! 

Feature Image: Image: Erwin Olaf/Koninglijk Huis/Wikimedia Commons/CC1.0

Sarah O'Leary 🇮🇪
Sarah O'Leary 🇮🇪
Before becoming the Senior Editor of DutchReview, Sarah was a fresh-faced international looking to learn more about the Netherlands. Since moving here in 2017, Sarah has added a BA in English and Philosophy (Hons.), an MA in Literature (Hons.), and over three years of writing experience at DutchReview to her skillset. When Sarah isn't acting as a safety threat to herself and others (cycling), you can find her trying to sound witty while writing about some of the stickier topics such as mortgages and Dutch law.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. First-hand facts:
    – Maxima’s family has never been that powerful, nor relevant, nor rich, nor influential at all. Just upper-middle class. Both sides had some land, like many other mid-sized landowners. His father wasn’t rich, but rather a social climber and a lobbyst (must say that liked by everyone and with no suspicion of anything). He had married Maxima’s mother who had some land, they had a normal apartment in a well-to-do neighbourhood, and made efforts to send his children to a very posh school.
    – He worked his way up in the high society and ended up as Secretary of Agriculture, this is a civil servant position although there was a military government. He had no direct responsibility in the prosecution and torture of terrorists (and innocent people) that was happening and that had originated the military coup. Of course he knew something… like everyone else in government, top business and media. The official number of disappeared and murdered people during those times is 7-9k people, as validated later by different democratic governments.

    • Just because you were born in the same country as her does not make you a “first hand” source.

      Indeed, it could be said that the Maxima family was a family that enjoyed a certain prestige and power in Argentine society. In fact, both his father and grandfather were presidents of rural society (a position reserved for members of the most “aristocratic” families in Argentina). On the other hand, his father managed the fields of the richest landowning families in Argentina (also, a position reserved for “aristocratic” members of the local society).

  2. What do you mean by “exotic roots”? Being Latin American? If so, that sounds like an awful example of stereotyping 😒

  3. As an Australian of Dutch heritage I am very happy that she is queen. People fail to see that Royal families have connections above politics that are useful for smoothing out difficult relations. The Dutch royals work like everyone and bring cohesion and a sense of nationhood. The Dutch Royals are not pompous nor weighed down by too many scandals. Princess Amelia will be a good Queen when it is her time. My Dutch family love them but maybe I m bias my grandmother having been part of court life for Queen Wilhelmina

    • ‘ biased ‘ with an ‘ed’.
      Bias is a noun. Biased is an adjective. So, one says – “I am biased. I have a bias towards the colour green’.
      My mother is very biased in her attitudes, and therefore cannot be as helpful as someone without a bias.

  4. She met willem alexander in Seville in a party of a friend where she thanked her for letting her stay at her house and if theres anything she can do to say the thanks you and she said you can take pictures and her friend introduced her to willem alexander and she did say his the prince of the netherlands. her father was not allowed to come to the wedding as His Alleged Involvement With A Murderous Dictatorship. Please do your research as your facts are not correct! go and see the the 3 episodes of her life on videoland every Saturday a new episode come out!!

  5. Dutch Review, I must express my frustration with the excessive number of advertisements in your articles. The presence of approximately 20 advertisements in a single article is incredibly disruptive to the reading experience. While I understand the business rationale behind this approach, it renders reading your articles nearly impossible without constant scrolling up and down to find my place. I’m not alone in finding this issue bothersome; I have friends who share the same sentiment. I kindly urge you to reconsider this strategy before it drives away more readers. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

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